B. April 29, 1935
April Ashley is an English model and restaurant hostess. She was outed as a transgender woman by the Sunday People newspaper in 1961 and is one of the earliest British people known to have had sex reassignment surgery.
She joined the Merchant Navy in 1951 at the age of 16. Following a suicide attempt, she was given a dishonourable discharge and a second attempt resulted in Ashley being sent to the mental institution in Ormskirk aged 17 for treatments.
In her book The First Lady, Ashley tells the story of the rape she endured while still living as a man. A roommate raped her, and she was severely injured.
After leaving hospital Ashley moved to London, at one point claiming to have shared a boarding house with then ship's steward John Prescott. Having started cross-dressing, she moved to Paris in the late 1950s, began using the name Toni April and joined the famous French entertainer Coccinelle in the cast of the drag cabaret at the Carousel Theatre.
At the age of 25, having saved £3,000, Ashley had a seven-hour-long sex reassignment surgery in May 1960, performed in Casablanca, Morocco by Georges Burou. All her hair fell out and she endured significant pain, but the operation was successful.
After returning to Britain, Ashley began using the name April Ashley and became a successful fashion model, appearing in such publications as Vogue and winning a small role in the film The Road to Hong Kong, which starred Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.
After a friend sold her story to the media, in 1961 under the headline "'Her' secret is out", the Sunday People outed Ashley as a trans woman. She became a centre of attention and some scandal, and her film credit was instantly dropped.
In November 1960, Ashley had met Hon. Arthur Corbett (later 3rd Baron Rowallan), the Eton-educated son and heir of Lord Rowallan. They wed in 1963, but the marriage quickly broke down. Ashley's lawyers wrote to Corbett in 1966 demanding maintenance payments and in 1967 Corbett responded by filing suit to have the marriage annulled. The annulment was granted in 1970 on the grounds that the court considered Ashley to be male, even though Corbett knew about her history when they married. DressAfford mermaid trumpet selections for wedding 2018
In the 1980s, Ashley married Jeffrey West, on the retired cruise ship RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. In 2005, after the passage of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, Ashley was finally legally recognised as female and issued with a new birth certificate. The then Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom John Prescott, who knew Ashley from the 1950s, helped her with the procedure.